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We continue our look at the top candidates to be selected by the Celtics with the sixth pick in this month’s NBA Draft. See also our profiles of Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart.
Name: Aaron Gordon
Position: Power forward
Stats: 6’9″, 225 lbs.
Gordon is one of the youngest players in the 2014 Draft, as well as one of the talents that will need the most development before becoming a bona fide NBA star. He also has tremendous potential, and has been making waves since high school. As a senior at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California, he was named USA Basketball’s male athlete of the year and was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game. Prior to beginning his college career, he led Team USA to its fifth FIBA Under-19 World Championship in Prague, where he was also the tournament MVP, following in the footsteps of the likes of Toni Kukoč, Andrei Kirilenko, Andrew Bogut and Jonas Valančiūnas.
In his only season in Arizona, Gordon averaged 12.4 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block per game, leading the Wildcats in the rebounding category. Arizona won the Pacific-12 regular season title, and Gordon had 10.3 points, 8 boards, 2.3 steals and 1.7 blocks in three games in the conference tournament, where the Wildcats lost the title game to UCLA despite Gordon’s career-high 8 assists. He was better in top-ranked Arizona’s run to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, recording 14.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.3 steals in four games before bowing out to #2 Wisconsin in a 64-63 overtime loss where Gordon had a career-best 18 boards.
According to reports that came out on Wednesday, Danny Ainge certainly thinks he does. In his latest mock draft, SI.com’s Chris Mannix says that “Ainge is locked in on Gordon.” Gordon is undoubtedly a very raw talent with some glaring deficiencies in his offensive game, but he’s also one of the best defenders in this draft class, something that Ainge’s Celtics have emphasized.
The biggest thing he will have to work on is his shooting, as he hit only 49.5% of his field goal attempts and routinely had very ugly lines, including twice going 2-for-10 from the floor, and recording a dismal 42.2% from the free throw line. But the Celtics are not in win-now mode, and could be willing to take a player like Gordon, a tremendous athlete who can legitimately guard both forward positions and had 11 games with double-digit rebounds.
Gordon has been favorably compared to Shawn Marion, and taking him at number six may not be as risky a proposition as it seems. Still, even if Ainge is indeed “locked in” on him, whether or not the Celtics end up picking him could depend more on the first five selections in the Draft. If one of the top five teams makes an unexpected choice, Boston might decide to take a player who will contribute right away rather than embark on the mid-to-long-term project that will be Gordon’s pro career.